Archive for Climate

“Drawdown” – Global Warming’s New Math

by Joel Makower at GreenBiz Group

An ambitious new book was recently published with the audacious goal of showing how to reverse the warming of the planet through a myriad of innovations, many of them led by business for profit.

“Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” (Penguin Books), was edited by the author and entrepreneur Paul Hawken along with a self-described “coalition” of research fellows, writers and advisors. (Full disclosure: I played a very small unpaid role in reviewing parts of the manuscript, and am included among the 120 or so advisors listed in the book.)

The book contains 80 solutions — “techniques and practices” — that are ready today, and 20 additional “coming attractions” — innovations just over the horizon — that collectively can draw down atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to solve, not just slow, climate change by avoiding emissions or sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.

Hawken is quick to point out that the book’s seemingly brash subtitle is a bit tongue in cheek: this is the only “comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming,” he said. But the larger point is not lost. The book, along with an accompanying website, may be the first to provide the insight and inspiration, backed by empirical research and data, that could enable companies, governments and citizens to attack the climate problem in a holistic and aggressive way. Moreover, many, if not most, of the solutions can be undertaken with little or no new laws or policy, and can be financed profitably by companies and capital markets.

At minimum, “Drawdown” is likely the most hopeful thing you’ll ever read about our ability to take on global warming.

Read more…

How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold…Eek!

Last year will go down in history as the year when the planet’s atmosphere broke a startling record: 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. The last time the planet’s air was so rich in CO2 was millions of years ago, back before early predecessors to humans were likely wielding stone tools; the world was a few degrees hotter back then, and melted ice put sea levels tens of meters higher.

“We’re in a new era,” says Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Program in San Diego. “And it’s going fast. We’re going to touch up against 410 pretty soon.”

There’s nothing particularly magic about the number 400. But for environmental scientists and advocates grappling with the invisible, intangible threat of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, this symbolic target has served as a clear red line into a danger zone of climate change.

When scientists (specifically, Ralph Keeling’s father) first started measuring atmospheric CO2 consistently in 1958, at the pristine Mauna Loa mountaintop observatory in Hawaii, the CO2 level stood at 316 parts per million (ppm), just a little higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. 400 was simply the next big, round number looming in our future.

But as humans kept digging up carbon out of the ground and burning it for fuel, CO2 levels sped faster and faster toward that target. In May 2013, at the time of the usual annual maximum of CO2, the air briefly tipped over the 400 ppm mark for the first time in several million years. In 2014, it stayed above 400 ppm for the whole month of April. By 2015, the annual average was above 400 ppm. And in September 2016, the usual annual low skimmed above 400 ppm for the first time, keeping air concentrations above that symbolic red line all year.

Read more here…

Victory for America’s Youth

Lawsuits on Climate ChangeThe Constitutional Climate Lawsuit against U.S. to Proceed
Eugene, OR – The federal court in Eugene, Oregon decided in favor of 21 youth plaintiffs in their “groundbreaking” constitutional climate lawsuit against President Obama, numerous federal agencies, and the fossil fuel industry. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken completely rejected all arguments to dismiss raised by the federal government and fossil fuel industry, determining that the young plaintiffs’ constitutional and public trust claims could proceed. Now, the 21 plaintiffs, who range in age from 9-20, are preparing for trial in what is believed to be a turning point in United States constitutional history.

In determining the complaint to be valid, Judge Aiken’s ruling contained these passages:
“Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law, and the world has suffered for it.”

“Although the United States has made international commitments regarding climate change, granting the relief requested here would be fully consistent with those commitments. There is no contradiction between
promising other nations the United States will reduce C02 emissions and a judicial order directing the United States to go beyond its international commitments to more aggressively reduce C02 emissions.”

“[The defendants and intervenors] are correct that plaintiffs likely could not obtain the relief they seek through citizen suits brought under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or other environmental laws. But that argument misses the point. This action is of a different order than the typical environmental case. It alleges that defendants’ actions and inactions – whether or not they violate any specific statutory duty – have so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty.”

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Energy-Water Nexus

By Steven Nadel , Executive Director

ACEEE and many others have noted the importance of the nexus between energy and water issues. Energy is used to move, treat, and heat water. Water is vital for producing energy, such as for cooling electric generating plants. Insufficient water availability can increase energy use for pumping and decrease energy production. Flooding can damage both energy and water systems. And there are many opportunities to promote both energy and water efficiency at the same time. Next month we will release a fact sheet on our work on the energy-water nexus and how both energy and water efficiency play critical roles. But first, I want to explore how the relationship between energy and water may evolve in future years, particularly in response to climate change.

Impacts on water supply and demand from Climate change

Parts of the US—primarily in the triangle from Montana to southern California to western Texas—are already experiencing water stress, meaning that water is being withdrawn from water sources at a rate that might not be sustainable (see map on page 272 here).

According to the US Global Change Research Program, as the climate changes, some regions, such as south of the Great Lakes, will get more precipitation and other regions, like the southwest, will get less. A stylized map of expected precipitation changes from their 2008 report is below.

Water flow change in 2040-2060 relative to 1901-1970. Source: US Climate Change Science Program, p. 138. (following this report the program was renamed the US Global Change Research Program). Read more here…

Climate CoLab

MIT has a project to focus collaboration on addressing climate change. Check out the website. There are a bunch of proposals and conversations that are very interesting.

Objective

The goal of the Climate CoLab is to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change.

Inspired by systems like Wikipedia and Linux, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Collective Intelligence has developed this crowdsourcing platform where citizens work with experts and each other to create, analyze, and select detailed proposals for what to do about climate change. 

Approach

Anyone can join the Climate CoLab community and participate. Community members are invited to submit and comment on proposals outlining ideas for what they think should be done about climate change. In some contests, members create proposals for specific kinds of actions such as generating electric power with fewer emissions or changing social attitudes about climate change.  In other contests, members combine ideas from many other proposals to create integrated climate action plans for a country, a group of countries, or the whole world. Experts evaluate the entries and pick finalists, and then both experts and community members select the most promising proposals. For more, see Contest phases. Read More→

Iowa’s Climate-Change Wisdom – NY Times 11/20/15

Negotiators en route to the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, scheduled to begin later this month, should take a detour on rural roads here in Johnson County. A new climate narrative is emerging among farmers in the American heartland that transcends a lot of the old story lines of denial and cynicism, and offers an updated tale of climate hope.

Recent polls show that 60 percent of Iowans, now facing flooding and erosion, believe global warming is happening. From Winneshiek County to Washington County, you can count more solar panels on barns than on urban roofs or in suburban parking lots. The state’s first major solar farm is not in an urban area like Des Moines or Iowa City, but in rural Frytown, initiated by the Farmers Electric Cooperative.

In the meantime, any lingering traces of cynicism will vanish in the town of Crawfordsville, where children in the Waco school district will eventually turn on computers and study under lights powered 90 percent by solar energy. Inspired by local farmers, who now use solar energy to help power some of their operations, the district’s move to solar energy will not only cut carbon emissions but also result in enough savings to keep open the town’s once financially threatened school doors.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

Wind turbines now line cornfields across the state, providing nearly 30 percent of Iowa’s electricity production. With some $10 billion invested in wind energy and manufacturing in Iowa, Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the benefits of green jobs. Read More→

Companies Join Climate Pledge

Sixty-eight of the largest and most iconic U.S. corporations from steelmakers to retailers to technology giants joined a White House-initiated pledge Monday to reduce carbon emissions and support a strong United Nations climate deal on global warming.

American Express, Alcoa, Facebook, Siemens, Best Buy, the Walt Disney Co., Kellogg and Xerox are just some of the companies that signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge Monday, joining an original group of 13 U.S. multinationals that pledged in July to mitigate global warming and back a U.N. pact. The original group included Apple, Goldman Sachs and Google.

In announcing big carbon reduction pledges and supporting  U.N. climate negotiations, the companies seemed to have intercepted the political football that climate change has become in Washington and carried it firmly into the economic zone.

“At Mars, we believe that our growth is not only linked to, but dependent on, the protection of the world that we all call home,” said Mars Inc. Chief Sustainability Officer Barry Parkin.

 “It is simply not an option to stand back and do nothing,” he said. The candy maker, which sources ingredients from all over the world, committed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from across its global operations by 2040 and by this year send no more waste to landfills. Read more…